We usually wax poetic about Peru’s pisco (sorry Chile, we still have to give that one to your northern neighbor), but South America has another intoxicating libation spilling over into the international mixing scene: Brazilian Cachaça.
Cachaça - alcohol made from distilled sugarcane - is the essential ingredient in Brazil’s famous caipirinha cocktail. It’s the third most consumed spirit in the world and the most-consumed in the Americas. International awareness and sales of cachaça have increased recently in part due to the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics, both hosted by Brazil.
Additionally, a “Legalize Cachaça” campaign led by challenging cachaça’s categorization as “Brazilian rum” recently bore fruit when in April of this year the U.S. Alcohol Tax and Trade Bureau officially recognized cachaça as Brazil’s national spirit and a distinctive product of Brazil. The entertaining campaign gathered over 300,000 signatures at more than 500 rallies and - like all good causes fighting for their own identity - the movement found its guiding principles in a declaration of independence:
“We the People, in order to form a more perfect bar, seek to establish Cachaça as 'Cachaça,' Brazil's Noble Spirit. We formally and necessarily declare that Cachaça is independent of, and therefore not, 'Brazilian Rum.' We make this declaration with no prejudice or malice towards Rum, nor to any other of our brethren spirits, such as Vodka, Tequila, or Gin.
To prove the above, let facts be submitted to a candid world: We recognize that Cachaça is made only from fresh-pressed cane juice, not molasses, and can only come from Brazil. We declare that Cachaça is the key ingredient to the Caipirinha, Brazil's National Cocktail. We also recognize that Cachaça mixes well with just about anything - fruit juices, sodas, and tonics - and brings a wonderful Brazilian touch to any classic cocktail.
We, therefore, hold these truths to be self-evident; that Cachaça is Brazil's Noble Spirit, endowed by its creator with certain unalienable characteristics, that among these are a fruity nose, fresh taste, and a long, clean finish. And in support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the confidence of our combined passion and expertise, we mutually pledge our understanding, our professionalism and our sacred honor.”
Though cachaça still falls under the rum umbrella, it now has its own distinct category and is no longer classified as “Brazilian rum.” Real cachaça (pronounced kah-SHAH-sah) can only be produced in Brazil. In return, Brazil agreed to recognize Tennessee Whiskey and Bourbon as distinctive products of the United States.
Wednesday, June 12, was International Cachaça Day. Celebrate cachaça’s newly won independence and recognition by mixing it into a caipirinha (pronounced kai-pur-EEN-ya):
½ lime, quartered
1.5 teaspoons sugar
1 cup ice
2.5 ounces cachaça
In a short glass, crush sugar and lime slices together with muddler or the back of a spoon. Add ice. Add cachaça. Stir and enjoy!
Want to sip your cachaça on Copacabana Beach? Check out our Rio de Janeiro tour suggestions.